Sometimes, especially during this pandemic, it’s nice to find a quick, suspenseful thriller where one can turn their brain off and enjoy. Run, a new Hulu original movie starring Sarah Paulson, fits the bill perfectly. From start to finish, it is an exhilarating thrill ride full of tension and dramatic heft that is never boring or cheap. This is the second film from Aneesh Chaganty, the first being the incredible Searching, a film that is worth seeking out for its incredible concept and execution. While Run is not quite as great or as innovative as Chaganty’s previous film, it still further proves his raw talent as a writer/director. If for nothing else, this film is worth checking out for the two main performances — both Paulson and Kiera Allen are incredible.
The film starts out with Paulson’s Diane having just given birth to her first child — a girl named Chloe who was born prematurely and who looks as though she may not survive. We then cut to years later, where Allen’s Chloe is seventeen years old and about to look at going to college despite living with many major disabilities such as paralysis, asthma and arrhythmia. She has to take different pills every day and find inventive ways to move around her house, as well as being homeschooled by her mother and waiting to hear back from her colleges. However, when her mom starts acting weird about both the college applications and some new medication she has just prescribed for Chloe, she starts doubting her mom’s true intentions regarding her illness. Is Diane fine with letting her daughter go to college as she claims, or does she want Chloe all to herself?
The obvious highlight in Run are the two main performances. From the very first scene, where Diane is distraught over the possibility of losing her recently born child, it is clear that Sarah Paulson will own this role. Paulson proves again and again that she is great at playing extremely disturbed people, and here she continues her hot streak. She does a marvelous job at building sympathy and emotion for her character in the beginning, and then breaking down all previous conceptions as the movie goes on. However, the real shining star of Run is Kiera Allen, a wheelchair user who shatters all expectations of people with disabilities in major Hollywood films. She outshines Paulson in most scenes in the second half, and delivers a performance with emotional depth and subtlety despite this being her first performance in a film. Some sequences also require some intense physical endurance from Allen, and she carries each scene perfectly, upping the suspense considerably with her inherent authenticity. Allen is a marvel, and Hollywood had better keep her career afloat by giving her plenty of great roles.
Run is also another great showcase of Aneesh Chaganty’s fantastic talent. His direction and writing make Searching a taught thrill ride that never lets the audience out of its grip until the credits roll. Chaganty brings the same amount of energy and tension to Run, even though it entails an entirely different style of filmmaking. He builds tension through the simplest of situations and makes them feel monumental, such as a scene where Chloe must access the Internet in the middle of the night without her mom knowing or a simple conversation over lunch. The film never resorts to cheap tactics of scaring the audience, and instead uses its solid writing and direction to create tense situations that craft an entertaining thriller. The writing can be a bit predictable at times and once the doubts regarding the mother are revealed, it is not too hard to connect the dots and see where the narrative is heading. This still never ruins the entertainment value or the suspense Chaganty brings to the table, and it is very easy to lose oneself in the taught and suspenseful Stephen King-like scenario the movie serves to viewers.
My biggest complaint with Run is the ending, which is not quite as compelling of a conclusion as the rest of the movie deserves. The last twenty minutes are not bad at all, but the initial ending is the average and typical ending the film could have shot for given the concept. The portion that was wholly sub-par was the epilogue (where the movie gives us a “seven years later” text), which was completely unnecessary. The final scene in the movie is somewhat ridiculous and the final line of dialogue is groan-inducing, which is especially disappointing given the quality of the film as a whole and the talent on display.
Run won’t knock your socks off and in a year people probably will not be looking back at this as the best movie of the year, but it’s a damn good choice to pass the time in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic. Allen is one of the best newcomers of this year and I hope her performance here gets all of the recognition it deserves and more. Casting people with disabilities in important and well-written roles needs to be a norm in Hollywood instead of casting some attractive Hollywood actress and making her act disabled (I’m looking at you, Sia). Those who have Hulu will find plenty to enjoy in this tense thriller that proves the talent of its director/writer and has both an amazing breakthrough performance and a reliably diabolical one.
I give Run a B+.